Oh, Ireland. The Emerald Isle, beloved of so many beyond your shores. My heart is full to overflowing and my head is swirling with so many, many thoughts. There is a lot I could write, and will do as I sort through my own thoughts and feelings following the referendum, in which an overwhelming majority voted to repeal the 8th amendment, effectively stripping all unborn children in Ireland of any legal protection of their right to life. All that I will keep for future writing.
What I’ve settled my heart to write about now, is the simple, yet magnificent, fact of our humanity and the intrinsic value that comes with being human. While Ireland’s political and societal landscape will change dramatically following this vote, and while pressure mounts on Northern Ireland to change our laws, I want to stop and take a moment to remember our humanity in the midst of all this.
I was going to start this by introducing myself, and saying “I’m no-one special…” by way of explaining that I’m a regular Northern Irish woman, married, with a job, friends, family… by “no-one special” I just would have meant no-one you would know, not a public figure. I stopped myself though, I thought “No, hold on a minute, I am special”.
I am special and so are you. At our very core, we are valuable. Where does that value come from? It’s because we are human. It’s not dependent on our achievements, influence, success. It’s not dependent on our age, sex, nationality. It’s not dependent on whether we are loved or wanted. We are intrinsically, deeply, uniquely valuable simply because we are human. Our humanity begins at conception when our lives begin. We are no less human when we’re an embryo or a foetus or a born baby… we are human at every stage of development. There is no getting around that fact, but many try.
The success of abortion depends on the dehumanisation of babies in the womb. It depends on stripping them of their value as members of our human family, or at least making this value subjective to any number of conditions, sometimes as simple as whether they are wanted or not. If abortion were truly morally right, then there would be no need for such vehement denial of the fact that unborn babies are just that, babies. Human babies. The most vulnerable members of our society, in the safest place they should ever be, their mother’s wombs.
The success of abortion also depends on devaluing women. Masked as empowerment and feminist progress, abortion needs women to feel like they have no other option, to feel like they aren’t strong enough to deal with the pregnancy crisis they are in. Aside from the imminent death of babies in the womb, this is the real heartbreaker about the referendum.
Lauded as a victory for women’s rights in Ireland, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I am not naive enough to think that women who make the choice for abortion do so easily or flippantly but we have been sold a lie when we believe our empowerment as women comes in the form of being allowed to choose whether our own children live or die.
I want to be a voice that comes against this culture that tells women they have to choose between their children and their education or careers, that tells women the answer to their crisis lies in ending the life inside of them. That goes for the 2% as well, the hard cases*. The desperately tragic cases where a woman finds herself pregnant after rape, or where she’s told the baby she is carrying has a life limiting condition. We need to remember how valuable these women are, and in the midst of their pain and vulnerability during what is likely the most difficult time they may have ever faced in life, we need to show them compassion, love and true support. Support that helps them choose life for their children. Support that tells them they are strong, capable and able to overcome their crisis.
This matters so much to me because we all matter. We are all part of this human family, at every stage of development inside and outside the womb, and we need to rehumanise the conversation around abortion. No matter where you may fall on the morality of abortion, I know the likelihood is, that if you have any opinion on it, part of what informs that opinion on both sides is genuine compassion for women. So, let’s talk! Let’s talk about how we can uphold the value of every woman and unborn child, let’s talk about how we can advocate for better care in pregnancy crisis, let’s talk about how we can support women so that abortion doesn’t have to be an option.
*98% of abortions in England and Wales involve physically healthy women aborting physically healthy babies. The ‘yes’ vote in the referendum appears to have been swung by the “hard cases”, 48% percent of yes voters didn’t support unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks (according to RTE exit poll).